Marriage is hard. And marriage during the COVID-19 pandemic is even harder.
I was sweating bullets. Red-faced and huffing, getting my one-year-old to take an afternoon nap was becoming my daily dose of cardio.
Meanwhile, I had a conference call in 10 minutes and a hefty project to finish for work. I also had 2 team members waiting on me to provide answers so they could complete their tasks for the day. OH, and let’s not forget the giant mess in the kitchen. You’ll never convince me that toddlers actually EAT more food than they throw on the floor.
My husband was holed up in our master bedroom diligently answering customer emails and leading his fellow team members via meeting after meeting on Zoom.
I was furious with him. Why did I always have to be the one to put our son down for a nap? Why did I always have to feed him lunch? And why did my husband have more time on our new “work from home during a pandemic” schedule to actually finish his work?
In a fit of anger, I put our crying, sleep-fighting son in his crib and charged out of the room.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I said, startling my hard-at-work hubby.
“Can’t do what?” he asked.
“All of it. I can’t do all my work because I’m the one doing the majority of the things for our son! And, he won’t nap. Meanwhile, you’re in here working away… and I just can’t do it anymore.”
“Okay, well let me try.”
Off he went to fight the same nap battle I’d been fighting for an hour. Except unlike me, he won in about 5 minutes.
That’s when it hit me: I was stressed. I was tense. I was anxious. My attitude was affecting not only me, but our son. And, I was blaming my husband for all of it.
“Ya know, if you wanna take a second look at our work-from-home schedule, we can change some things. I definitely don’t want you to be upset with me or resent me,” said my thoughtful husband.
After a little conversation, crying and reckoning, I knew this whole COVID-19 pandemic was teaching me a lot more than just how to wash my hands well. It was showing me some things to work on in order to be a better partner, teammate, friend and wife for my husband.
Here are 5 big things I’ve learned about marriage during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- While your spouse more than likely knows you pretty well, they CANNOT read your mind. When it came to our new normal, I felt pretty alone and overwhelmed. However, I didn’t voice my concerns to my husband about not having help with our son and not having enough time to finish my work. Instead, I bottled them up and let them fester. I expected my husband to read my mind, hear my sighs and see the look of exhaustion in my eyes. I also expected him to offer to do something about it. But, that’s just not realistic. What I’ve learned is he’s not a mind reader, and he has a lot on his plate, too.
- Your spouse may not do things exactly how you would do them, and that’s okay. If I’m being honest, one of the biggest reasons I took on the majority of the responsibility for our son during our quarantined life is because I innately felt like I would do a better job of caring for him. It’s built into my brain that I’m the best caretaker. After all, I grew this little human on my own for 9 months. He needs me now more than ever in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, right? My husband sometimes forgets to change him out of his pajamas, and he drags him around the house on a blanket… he even lets him go outside without shoes on. I know, I’m being dramatic. What I’ve learned is that our little boy loves to wear his pajamas at all times of day, his new favorite game is to be pulled around the house by his dad, and the feeling of grass on his toes makes him giggle. My two guys love spending time together. And even though my husband doesn’t do things the way I would every time, he does care for him, and that’s exactly what our son needs.
- Attack the problem, not each other. My anxiety over not getting work accomplished was causing me to be aggressive and frustrated with my son. It was also causing me to see my husband in a bad light and blame him for not doing more. I am still so grateful for his gracious response to “take another look at our schedule.” He chose to see past my frustration with him and attack the problem instead of me and my attitude. What I’ve learned is when you have feelings of anger toward your spouse, or maybe you’re just struggling with seeing them in a good light, you should take a deeper dive into your own emotions. Think through what you’re experiencing. Are you more anxious than normal? Have you eaten enough? Are you tired? Do you feel disrespected or unheard? More than likely, the real issue is something the two of you can work on together instead of attacking each other.
- Taking care of your spouse should be your first priority. Okay, this one may sound countercultural at the moment. We constantly hear, “take care of yourself, have me time, practice self-care,” and we should find time for those things. But, when your spouse is dealing with frustration, anger, exhaustion, etc., ask them what they need and how you can help. Try not to build on the tension by fighting back or telling them to get over it or being inflexible. What I’ve learned is when you put your spouse first and offer to look past their faults in the moment, it will strengthen your relationship. Plus, it will establish a deeper sense of safety in your marriage. Again, I’m so thankful my husband chose to take care of me in the midst of my frustration instead of getting mad at me for interrupting his “work time” or blaming me for not creating our schedule correctly in the first place. In the future, I’ll try to do the same for him in his moments of despair.
- Vulnerability is the lifeblood of a healthy marriage. After my mini-breakdown, my husband and I sat together on the couch to come up with a new plan that would lessen my stress. I shared my feelings of mom guilt, anxiety of not completing work, and frustrations with our house being messier than usual. I even shared my feelings of envy toward my husband because it seemed he was able to accomplish more during the day and rest easier at night. These were all things I had kept to myself, simply because I was running 100 miles an hour and hadn’t really had time to process them. What I’ve learned is being vulnerable with your spouse is hard, but it’s necessary for the health of your marriage. When I allowed myself to open up with my spouse, I realized one of the biggest sources of my anger and frustration was coming from ME. I wasn’t being vulnerable about how hard this “new normal” was for me, and I DEFINITELY wasn’t asking for help. Until I had no other choice.
All in all, my husband and I have both learned a lot. We’ve learned more about each other and our relationship in the last 6 weeks of quarantine than we ever thought we could. Showing each other grace and putting our marriage first has been quite the challenge. But it’s also been a needed exercise. As strange and difficult as this season has been, I believe our marriage will come out stronger in the end. And for that, I’m thankful.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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